What constitutes the “human experience”? A lot of things, truth be told. So vast is this area of discussion that it’s quite impossible to encapsulate every single nuance and variant neatly within the confines of a single exhibition or body of work. What is more feasible, however, is a sampling, and that, in essence, is what BEHAVIOR does.

Seven young artists, all recent 2015 Fine Art graduates of UiTM Seri Iskandar, Perak, showcase their take on chosen aspects of the human experience. Exhibiting as the Initial Art Group, this young collective consists of Ahmad Hidayatullah Mataha, Aien Syira (whose full name is Nur Izzah Insyirah Abdul Manan), Anis Che Mat, Azizi Saad (full name: Muhammad Hafiz Azizi Ahmad Saad), Mohd Izmeer RosliMuhammad Zulfaqar Harith, and Nabil Ahmad.

The exhibition began last Friday, November 20 and continues until December 17, 2015. An opening reception is scheduled for 3pm on Saturday, November 28, 2015, and officiating the exhibition will be Prof. Madya Salmah Abu Mansor, Principal Fellow at the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Prof. Salmah is well-known in the Malaysian art scene, particularly for her passion in supporting young artists. We are therefore both honored and pleased to have her as our guest of honor for the afternoon.

Ahmad Hidayatullah Mataha’s works depict the anguish often displayed by individuals suffering from depression, an all too common form of mental illness. The exaggerated grotesque figures depicted in his artworks are perhaps a subtle message of how our society still views mental health with a certain level of disdain.

At one time or another, just about everyone grapples with our own identity, as part of the process of self-discovery. The search for our identity often manifests itself in obvious ways, and in Aien Syira’s works, brings to life the mirror as a metaphor for reflective self-discovery and self-questioning.

Human trafficking is a much-talked about global issue in current times. Despite it being well into the 21st century, this form of human bondage and trade still continues in many parts of the world, our nation included, as much as we may want to pretend it doesn’t exist within our borders. Anis Che Mat addresses one specific area of human trafficking, that of women caught in the noxious snare of the flesh trade, in his series of works for this exhibition.

The familiar street scenes of Kuala Lumpur become backdrops in artist Azizi Saad’s pieces, both of which deal with the challenges faced by urban dwellers. Whether it is being self-absorbed with daily concerns, or the stress of living in a fast-paced environment, the city becomes a metaphor for contemporary life in the modern world.

It has been reported in many research papers, that the first five years of a child’s life are the most formative, and what a person is exposed to during these important cognitive developmental years has a lasting impact. The two works by Mohd Izmeer Rosli may be read as a direct response to this, using the mildly disturbing images of a boy and a girl to underline the reality that what children learn at a young age influences what they do, and become, in later years of their lives.

The yearning for a more communal mode of life forms the thrust of the two ballpoint pen and charcoal artworks by Muhammad Zulfaqar Harith, contrasting the urban lifestyle backdrop in Azizi Saad’s works. Arguably, the spirit of communal cooperation is missing, by and large, from urban Malaysia of contemporary times, although still strongly present in suburban and rural areas of the country. The two works can perhaps be read as a suggestion, by the artist, that bringing back community spirit will make life in urbania more wholesome.

At a glance, the two imaginary landscapes contributed by Nabil Ahmad have nothing to do with humans. What we see on the surface are benign views of time-chiseled geo structures, but these two works in fact are the artist’s critique of the modern day phenomenon of social media, and its impact on the human users. They can be read as depictions self-imposed isolation, electronically and software driven in the case of social media, where the nice exterior hides a reality that is darker and lonelier than meets the eye.

To encapsulate every possible aspect of human behavior is impossible, what more with the infinite possible permutations of emotional and mental stability levels every person possesses. But this brief survey of humanity reveals something quite telling about this group of young artists – their ability, and more important, willingness to think and analyze the world around them.

It is such artistic “behavior” that gives us hope these artists will one day mature into names to look out for in the nascent but steadily growing Malaysian art scene.

BEHAVIOR: a preview of artworks

(Click on any thumbnail below to view larger image)

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